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Two Saturdays ago, several of the yūdansha (black-belts) were training with kihon randori, in this instance having uke provide a specified attack while nage responded with as many different waza (techniques) as he or she could think of. Nage’s “turn” lasted until nage flubbed or repeated a technique. At one point, nage attempted aiki-dome against yokomen-uchi, and it didn’t work. What should happen is nage steps forward with tegatana extended into uke’s strike and, rather than hitting nage uke gets knocked flat — ideally, for uke, it feels like running into a wall.

Nage was having trouble with aiki-dome because he was attempting to cut uke down with his tegatana rather than simply dominating the space. I stepped in to offer some corrections and, in the course of demonstrating mentioned that sometimes successful execution of a waza isn't so much a matter of what you do as it is a matter of what you are.

This thought led to a series of classes illustrating that point. I took the gokyū seiteigata — the first set of waza a student learns — and said, “Forget about kata; just move.” I started with an exaggerated movement pattern and a defined metaphor the student was to envision themselves being. Once the students were catching on, I utilized the pattern and metaphor in an ōyō-waza (applied technique). Once that portion was working, I had the students take everything they’d just learned and use it in executing the formal, kata version of the technique.

One student described his first exposure to this class as “revelatory.”

Here are the waza and metaphors used. Most of the metaphors are not original; they are images one or another of my Yamate-ryu sensei have told me:
• Ude-osae / The giant boulder rolling down the ramp in “Raiders of the Lost Ark”
• Aiki-nage / Fred Astaire and Ginger Rodgers
• Shihō-nage / Eeyore (“Oh, poor me.”)
• Kokyū-nage / A bellows
• Kote-gaeshi / A whirlpool (two whirlpools, actually)
• Kote-mawashi / A writhing snake
• Kokyū-dōsa / MY! SPACE!

This series of classes wasn’t just a lot of fun and a great workout (for students and instructor, alike), it was possible to see the distinct improvements the students were achieving. When you hear uke yelp — or even better, giggle (because uke knows he or she is totally screwed and can do nothing about it) — the technique worked.

There’s been a bunch of yelping and giggling in the past week and a half…
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The May 2018 edition of Sword and Spirit — the eNewsletter of Itten Dojo — is posted. In this special, memorial issue, we present “My Budo,” by Fredrick Lovret. Download the newsletter by joining the Sword and Spirit group on Facebook, or directly from the Resources page of our website, ittendojo.org.
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In a break from our continuing focus on kihon (fundamentals), we took advantage of a smaller than usual Saturday attendance for Mr. Starner and me to get some work in on the Ittō Tenshin-ryū “Ten-no-kata.”
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Dear Friends of Itten Dōjō,

The dōjō calendar for May has been posted, at http://ittendojo.org/downloads/Itten-Dojo-Calendar-2018-05.pdf. This will be a relatively low-key month, with (other than the Memorial Day holiday closure) no special departures from the normal routine.

• Dōjō Upgrades

Thanks to all who contributed to the recent improvements to the interior of the dōjō. The enhancement of the training environment really has to be experienced — photos simply don’t do it justice. Bamboo fencing was used to cover the exposed, gray plastic facing of insulation on the upper half of the rear wall of the dōjō proper, and then the same fencing and shōji (screens) were used to close the space over the tokonoma and above the partial wall at jōseki.

Additional improvements being considered: installation of a makiwara for practice of proper striking (per Maren Sensei’s wish list) and placement of an exterior awning over the entrance door and adjacent window.

The investment is well worth it. Based on a recent conversation with our landlord, we expect to remain in the current facility indefinitely, and we’re looking forward to improvements he has planned for the exterior of the building — landscaping, additional parking, better lighting, and maybe even a fresh paint job.

• Kenjutsu T-shirts

Place your order this month for our new, Itten Dōjō / Ittō Tenshin-ryū kenjutsu t-shirts, featuring on the back the fierce, two-sword wielding samurai drawn by Ostrowski Sensei in 1982. Just $15, the 100% cotton shirts are ash gray with artwork in black, and are available in sizes small to extra-large. A sample shirt will be on display at the dōjō. Please note that orders for our Yamate-ryū polo shirts can also be placed at this time ($25).

• Join the Sword and Spirit Group!

In addition to the dōjō Facebook page, we maintain a Facebook Group titled “Sword and Spirit” — the group is used to distribute our monthly e-newsletter of the same name. The newsletter contains life hacks from the martial arts, and will be of interest to persons with no current involvement in training as well as active members of the ryū. Participation in the group is open to all, but you do need to request inclusion on the group Facebook page. Please do!

As always — thanks everyone, members and friends, for your support of the dōjō.

Respectfully,
R. Wolfe
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The April issue of our newsletter is now available — join the Sword and Spirit group on Facebook to be sure of receiving valuable “Life Hacks from the Martial Arts!” (Alternately, you can download the newsletter from the Resources page of ittendojo.org.)
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At a recent practice, I asked Ms. Ziegler to step out and film the Ukemi-no-kata. This was unrehearsed, just the normal execution of the kata as included at every practice. I’m the one in blue, and am now 62. I may get old, but training in this art will never get old — Yamate-ryū aikijutsu is an inexhaustible source of fascination and personal transformation.

I should add that we execute this kata immediately following an intense, 10-minute exercise set that includes knuckle pushups, planks, back exercises, and two difficult leg-strength exercises — the intent is to make a clean execution of the kata more challenging. We did the exercise set prior to shooting this video. (Sometimes, for fun, we’ll start with the kata first, so that we’re fresh, and then ukemi feels like we’re weightless in comparison to normal.)
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The newest addition to our aikijutsukai, Mr. Reisinger, throwing himself (literally) into his introduction to ukemi. Normally, we require prospective members to observe an entire practice and interview for admission. Mr. Reisinger arrived especially early, so we invited him to “observe actively,” had him sign the inevitable release form, threw a spare jūdōgi on him, and had him play along. Even with being at least two-thirds completely overwhelmed, his enthusiasm was infectious, and made clear that Mr. Reisinger is going to be a great addition to the group!
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Dear Friends of Itten Dōjō,

The dōjō calendar for April has been posted, at ittendojo.org/downloads/Itten-Dojo-Calendar-2018-04.pdf. With the Yamate-ryū Taikai fast approaching, please check the calendar for some adjustments to the normal routine.

2018 Yamate-ryū Taikai
As noted above, Itten Dōjō is honored to host the 2018 Yamate-ryū Taikai April 21st and 22nd. This event is open to current and former students of the Yamate-ryū and/or Ittō Tenshin-ryū. The topic for training this year will be the Yamate-ryū Sankyū-gata — “From Kihon to Ōyō: Thinking and Training Out of the Box.” Details and registration information are available at ittendojo.org/events/YR-Taikai-2018.htm. Maren Sensei is also planning a “media day” for the afternoon of Friday the 20th, with the intention of shooting video and still photography that can subsequently be used by all for print and/or digital marketing.

Facebook Algorithm Changes
Recent changes made to Facebook newsfeed algorithms further restrict the organic reach (i.e., no money spent to reach more people) of posts from pages like the Itten Dōjō page. The only way to be certain you see all posts is to visit our Facebook page frequently. Another thing you can do — although it still won’t guarantee you’ll see all posts — is select “See First” from the dōjō page. To do that,
1. Click “Follow” near the cover photo of the Itten Dōjō page.
2. Hover over “Following” or “Liked” near their cover photo.
3. Select “See First.”

Join the Sword and Spirit Group!
In addition to the dōjō Facebook page, we maintain a Facebook Group titled “Sword and Spirit” — the group is used to distribute our monthly e-newsletter of the same name. The newsletter contains life hacks from the martial arts, and will be of interest to persons with no current involvement in training as well as active members of the ryū. Participation in the group is open to all, but you do need to request inclusion on the group Facebook page. Please do!

As always, thanks for your support of the dōjō.

Respectfully,
R. Wolfe
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Benefits Beyond Technique
Posture & Movement in Yamate-ryu Aikijutsu
Sarah K. St. Angelo, Ph.D.

When a person begins the study of a martial art, they often have some common goals in mind. Losing weight, getting in shape, and learning self-defense are pretty typical, and most legitimate martial arts schools will provide tools to allow students to achieve those goals. Some people look for a challenge, something to provide the means to improve self-confidence and discipline, and again, these are achievable goals for the student in many arts or other pursuits. Some benefits that practitioners notice after training for some time, like camaraderie with others or improved stamina, can also be achieved through a variety of arts or other activities.

As of this writing (February 2018), I have been studying Yamate-ryu aikijutsu for just over three years, but I have trained in a number of other martial arts over the course of nearly 20 years. One result of my training in Yamate-ryu that I have not experienced in my prior training is the positive effect on my posture and general body coordination. I did not originally seek this in my training, but the associated benefits I describe herein are certainly worth pursuing as goals—and seem to be inherent to the Yamate-ryu and the pedagogy used by its instructors.

*

Read more of this exceptional essay from the March issue of our free, e-newsletter by downloading the PDF from the Resources page of ittendojo.org or by joining the Sword and Spirit group on Facebook.
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There’s a kuden (oral teaching) in the Yamate-ryū: “If the beginning is right, the ending is easy.” Accordingly, we’ve invested a lot of time recently on irimi (entering), kuzushi (breaking balance), and kake (framing). This photo was snapped a tiny fraction of a second prior to nage simulating a neck-break. I say “simulating,” because in the Yamate-ryū version of this technique, it’s possible to execute kuzushi and kake in such a way that it is all but impossible for uke to escape the neck-break…even when he knows it’s coming.
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